Summary: When Ugandan President Idi Admin has a dream that all British Indians should be expelled from the country in 90 days, a nightmare begins for Sabine and her family. With a grandfather who came over from India with his family, Sabine was born in Uganda, and considers herself a Ugandan citizen. Struggling to come to terms with the sudden hatred from friends and the country she loves, Sabina must find within herself the strength to face reality, help her family and grasp the courage to start over again.
Number of Pages: 215
Age Range: 13-15
Review: In a powerful, historical tale of the expulsion of people of Indian ancestry from Uganda in 1972, Sabine and her family are Ugandan citizens being forced to leave the country they call home. Living in a society that treats whites as first class, Indians as middle class and Africans as working class, it seems inevitable that when Ugandan Africans regain control of their country after a time of British rule, some resentment would have to be aired. This resentment comes out in the form of a program called Africanization: putting Africans in the prominent job positions previously held by whites and Indians.
I love the complex nature of Shenaaz Nanji’s writing. While telling the story of Sabine and her family, Nanji thoughtfully explores the dynamics of the world Sabine lives in, explaining and even having her main character empathize with the Africans’ agenda at times. Sabine’s development through the novel is well-done. She begins the story as a naive fifteen year-old who doesn’t believe Admin’s threats will include her family because they are Ugandan citizens born in the country, but as the story progresses Sabine loses friends based on ethnicity, her beloved uncle, and her home, reality sets in.
Sabine is able to recognize the roles she and her family have played in the country’s current situation and strives to make small but immediate changes to make amends. She ends up being a compelling character who shows thoughtfulness, integrity and courage as she is devoted to her family and does everything she can to help and protect them.
Child of Dandelions is a surprising and quality work of historical fiction, and my favourite part was how the title of the book tied into the story. Sabine’s friend calls her and her family weeds, dandelions that need to be uprooted, but Sabine ponders this accusation and decides being a dandelion is actually a positive trait. She comes to realise she can land anywhere, and still flourish. What a beautiful concept and unique way to look at emmigration.
“Her wild hair flew askew, whirling around her head like snakes. The wind seemed to have gathered a sudden strength. It flapped the clothes on the clothesline with slapping sounds. She could smell the freshness of the clothes as they billowed in the breeze. Zena had taken their memories of good times, rubbed, scrubbed, drained, and discarded them.” – Sabine from Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji, page 95
“‘No, Katana.’ She picked up one of the willow-patterned china cups they used regularly. It was time to make some changes. She and her family had been treating the Africans like the untouchables in India. Katana could not share their utensils, could not use their washroom. As if he’d pollute them. Every day he waited until they finished their meal; then he cleared the table, washed the dishes, and sat on the kitchen floor to eat the leftovers or to cook the bubbling white ugali, a corn mush. Sabine’s face felt hot with shame. It was not only Mr. Singh or Lalita who were prejudiced, but she and her family as well. The whites and the soldiers, too. They were all prejudiced.” – Sabine from Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji, page 135
“What was courage, anyhow? Maybe there were different kinds of it. She looked at the crayons in the box. Yellow for Uncle’s courage – he brought sunshine to everyone’s life. Blue for Papa’s nerves of steel. White for Mama, angelic in her love and care. Green for Bapa, who conquered the land. What of herself? What colour was she?” – Sabine from Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji, page 137
“‘Goodbye,’ she whispered. ‘I will miss you.’
She looked at their house. It’s just a house, she thought. It became a home only when it was filled with the love, trust, and hope of her family. Turtles carry their homes with them so they are always at home. ‘I will carry my home with me.’
‘Goodbye,’ she whispered again.” – Sabine from Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji, page 175
“They ate in silence. When they made their way to their rooms. Sabine stopped midway in the corridor. ‘Bapa, what will we do without you?’ she asked.
He squeezed her hand. ‘Beta, kismet brought me from India to Africa and I made my home here.’
Sabine smiled. ‘Now kismet will take me to the new world and I will make my home there.’ It was her turn to squeeze Bapa’s hand.” – Conversation between Sabine and her Bapa from Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji, page 192
“Lalita passed soda and groundnuts to everyone. Overhead, the sky stretched as blue as a robin’s egg, and the morning sun was a ripe gold mango, split open, sweet and soft. Sabine swallowed. How could something so bad happen to Uganda, the Pearl of Africa? Would she ever be able to come back? Before she knew it, tears ran down her cheeks and she cried like a newborn baby.” – Sabine from Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji, pages 195-196
“She thought about the future, her life in the new world. The best way to avenge the injustice, she decided, would be to live well and be happy. The tenacious gene of the dandelion in her would help her rise out of the African ashes and so the seeds of a new Tree of Life.” – Sabine from Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji, page 210